Light Reading

Orange Nabs First Intel Smartphone

Sarah Thomas

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2012 -- There's been much speculation over who would build the first Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) Atom-powered smartphone, but it appears a wireless operator, Salt SA , has beaten the predicted first movers, Motorola Mobility LLC and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) to the punch.

The European operator is announcing Monday at MWC that it will offer its own branded smartphone, codenamed Orange Santa Clara, in the U.K. and France this summer. The phone will be powered by Intel's new Atom processor, Z2460 , and supports HSPA+.

The phone's real name and price won't be announced until launch, but it will be significantly cheaper than most smartphones, according to Vincent Brunet, Orange's executive vice president of mobile consumer services.

"Our strategy is to have a much more aggressive price point for this phone when we introduce it in the market," Brunet says. "It will enable some of our customers to have a high-performance smartphone at a price that today does not allow them to get this level of performance."

The phone, built for Orange by Gigabyte, will run Android's Gingerbread operating system at launch, but Brunet says will be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich once it's available. The phone also supports HD video and near-field communications (NFC) and has an 8-megapixel camera. (See Intel Adds NFC to Renewed Mobile Push.)

Why this matters
The device launch is significant for both companies. Intel says mobile will be its next big push, and it's looking to the wireless operators to help get it started, but so far it hasn't made chips power-efficient enough for mobile. That's all changing with its latest Medfield chips. That said, it won't be easy to break into mobility, where established mobile players like Nvidia Corp. (Nasdaq: NVDA) and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) rule the roost.

For Orange, this furthers a strategy of selling branded phones that has worked well for the operator in Europe for the past 10 years. The carrier uses its branded phones to promote data usage and its own services like Orange TV and the Orange App Shop. The company says that customer demand for Orange phones led it to double the models it carried last year, increasing in volume to 15 percent of its total portfolio from 7 percent. It plans to increase that figure to 20 percent this year.

For more
More Intel-powered phones and gear are expected this week in MWC. Read up on Intel's plans below.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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